Pia Poppenreiter (@PiaPoppenreiter) is an Austrian entrepreneur. She is the former CEO & Co-Founder of Ohlala, a paid dating app. Before that, she created Peppr, the first app to book erotic and sexual services. With years of experience in the sex work market, she’s hoping to transform it and make it safer for the people in this space. That is why she is currently working on her next venture.
The AMA took place on Instagram on November 21, 2019.
How do you feel human relationships have changed with technology?
Wow, a very big question! In fact, the mode of communication changed. I mean, the manner and frequency as to how we communicate, how easily we can now reach out to a wide range of people (almost for free), across all sorts of platforms. However, the usage of technology varies across age groups, cultures and continents (and many other factors), so the lasting impact of technology on human relationships is still unclear to me.
I see the last decade more like an experimental phase, and it really depends how well we use the communication tools and for which purposes. I do believe technology has the potential to improve human relationships significantly, if we develop products with exactly that purpose at core; and if we learn how to use them properly.
Hey Pia! I'm wondering what are the biggest stigma you had to face in the sex tech industry?
I understand that I might have picked one of the most polarizing and controversial industries/topics to innovate. For those who have personal, subjective moral concerns or mixed feelings whether or not I should be involved in empowering "sexworkers" actively by providing tools to do their job safer, I face/faced strong resistance in all sorts of ways (personally and as a CEO of these companies).
From a business perspective, what we do is legal and regulated, however we often seem to not have the same chances as other businesses/start-ups. It starts by finding payment providers who want to partner up and goes all the way to finding good growth capital, as most funds till date rule out investing in that space in general (sextech companies are mostly excluded from pitching competitions, startup camps or public funds.).
Hello Pia :) How do you attract people to join your venture (co-founders,employees), with all the risks of a new business being a reality? Thank you!
Well, I think different phases (early stage phase you are looking for a co-founder) require different approaches as to how to get key talent (compared to employees your looking for in a growth phase) to join the companies vision/mission.
All my former co-founders I met actually at start-up events, where I pitched the idea. Most employees came from job search posts, referrals through current employees, headhunters or recruiting companies.
Hi Pia, I notice more and more European investors putting money into sextech startups, how do you see the future of this industry?
Capital inflow, compared to other domains, is still super small in this space. It requires bold large-scale investors and more funds adapting their fund policy to opening up to this market to really make a leap forward. Continuously eradicating the stigma on sex will pave the way for sextech to flourish. This is all happening, so I do think we look into a bright future in this domain.
What would be your advice to a woman starting her entrepreneurial journey?
Find at least one great mentor who is going to help you reflect and grow!
What was the most surprising thing you’ve learned about women and dating along the way?
Women are way more powerful than they sometimes know or realize. And about dating? I think that there is a notion to question relationship models in general, and that we will see different legitimate types of relationships in the future - that goes beyond the classical monogamous marriage.
Are there any interesting patterns of people using apps when it comes to dating & sex apps? Like timing, using only on a certain days of the week, etc
I think behavior is mostly opportunity driven. So, there is no absolute logic to be found (yet).
I have another question: Is there something you wish you’d known when you started?
How magical it feels, if you create, build and deliver a product that creates real value for its users. But I could have not found out any other way, but doing it!
What is this next app about?
... Can't reveal anything about the new product, yet. Hope to be able to reveal more in a couple of weeks!